For quite a while, Foresight has been looking for a way to help prevent the issuance of patents which shouldn't be issued, especially patents that ignore prior art in open source software. We have a special interest in this because nanotechnology development may be done using open source methods, and we want to protect that work.
We had planned to develop a database of disclosures, but then found out that IP.com had already set this up as a service. Better, they had already gotten the patent offices to agree to search their database to look for prior art an achievement that we as a small nonprofit felt was probably beyond us. Also, IP.com publishes the disclosures on a CD-ROM journal, providing better protection in case of lawsuit another service we didn't want to get into.
So we contacted them and found they were quite excited to work together to enable low-cost open source disclosures. Their usual prices are $109 (or more) per disclosure; reasonable for large companies making patent-oriented disclosures, but too high for open source folks trying to make gifts of their work to the public. We got it down to $13 in bulk a price low enough that even Foresight can afford to buy some and give them away for free.
We are receiving key assistance from Santa Clara University Law School, which is cooperating with Foresight in this effort.
How the open source disclosures will work
IP.com is making a special website for the open source community to make disclosures at a much lower cost. Each entry involves a pull-down menu listing the main open source licenses; to use the form, the person will need to select an open source license under which the disclosure is being made.
Foresight will make our own portal into this IP.com site, with additional information such as advice on how to make good open source disclosures. Foresight (and other organizations) will be able to purchase disclosures in bulk for projects we select, and get an even lower price per disclosure.
The disclosure includes a 5000-character searchable text field, and an optional non-searchable attached text field of up to 25,000 bytes for source code. Alternatively, the discloser can just link to the source code stored elsewhere.
For the database to be useful to the patent office, the names and addresses of those making the disclosures need to be correct (not pseudonyms and made-up addresses). On their commercial site, IP.com uses a credit-card verification service to do this. As a small nonprofit, Foresight is not set up to do verification in another way, so we plan to use the same system until something better is available.
Pricing for those going directly to the IP.com open source website will be $19.95; Foresight and other groups can purchase disclosures in bulk as low as $13 each.
More details are in the appended text, taken from our agreement with IP.com. While it only guarantees searchability via web for five years, we speculate that this is just to avoid making promises in perpetuity, which is understandable. We believe that IP.com is likely to leave all the disclosures available for websearching indefinitely; the cost is not high, and the value to their customers is high.
Text from our agreement with IP.com
Each document published on opensource will be subject to an Open Source Release License. IP.com will enumerate specific acceptable licenses (such as those listed at: http://www.opensource.org/licenses/).
An IP.com opensource document comprises a bibliographic section, a searchable text section, and a non-searchable text section.
The bibliographic section is comprised of a number of structured fields (similar to the existing disclosures product) such as Title, IPC Classification, Related Persons, Country of Origination, Publication Language, and Related Documents. In addition, a small number of additional fields (such as Open Source Release License) may be added. Each field has a specific maximum size, defined elsewhere but none greater than 240 bytes.
The searchable text section is limited to 5,000 characters of text.
The non-searchable text section, intended for source code examples, is limited to 25,000 characters of text.
A document is submitted using a web-based collection form. The information is then aggregated into a single XML text file.
In the future, IP.com is willing to negotiate an alternate means of document submission (such as Secure FTP).
Certain information, such as the Document Identifier and Publication Date, is added to the document.
When the document it published, it is assigned an IPCOM number and made available to the public. It may be searched via IP.com's bibliographic or full text search facilities. When found, it may be viewed or downloaded at no cost.
In addition, portions of each document are made available to some IP.com search partners via their private data feeds.
Finally, shortly following the publication of the document, it is notarized by a third-party service via IP.com's validation server. This action definitively records its publication date.
A summary of each document (its bibliographic section and searchable text section) will be included in the next month's issue of The IP.com Journal. The entire document, in electronic form, will be available on The IP.com Journal CD-ROM. (Format, frequency of publication, and content of The IP.com Journal are subject to change by IP.com at any time.)
Each document will remain searchable and downloadable through the IP.com website for a period of at least five (5) years. (However, each document will remain searchable and available in The IP.com Journal.)
IP.com pricing is based on purchasing a "voucher;" vouchers represent some amount of data. In the existing disclosures product, publishing a full document may require more than one voucher.
The price of a voucher is divided into two components: a publishing fee and a maintenance fee. For the existing disclosures product, the publishing fee for a standard document is $100 and the maintenance fee is $9 for a total of $109 per voucher. For the opensource product, a voucher will be made to represent one document.
For the opensource product, the publishing fee is $16.95 and the maintenance fee is $3 for a total of $19.95 per voucher. For this fee, an opensource document can be submitted directly to IP.com at http://opensource.ip.com. Credit cards may be used to purchase a voucher.
Institutional Program: Not-for-profit Institutions, such as Foresight and SCU, are granted the right to purchase vouchers in bulk for use in submitting documents by the their users via their co-branded user interface (CUI). Submission of documents via the Foresight or SCU CUI will utilize their respective vouchers (and therefore appear "free" to the CUI user).
Institutional pricing is as follows:
100 submission vouchers:
$1,500 ($12+$3 per document)
1000 submission vouchers:
$13,000 ($10+$3 per document)
IP.com was created to allow publication of intellectual property in a way
that will have legal significance for the patent system. A document
submitted to IP.com becomes part of the text-searchable database that will
be available to the world's patent office examiners to help them conduct
prior art searches to prevent bad patents from issuing.
How to donate to the Foresight Open Source Disclosure Project: